Essential Action

Philadelphia Ash Dumping Chronology

[Compiled by Greenpeace, 457 Washington St. 2nd floor New York, NY 10013
tel: (212) 966-4386 fax: (212) 941-6203]

1985 - 1986: Philadelphia trash crisis develops; nowhere to put ash from Roxborough incinerator.

Winter 1986: Joseph Paolino and Sons, a contractor for Philadelphia, banned from using a Virginia landfill, seeks sites in South Carolina, Georgia and West Virginia.

Sept 5, 1986: Khian Sea leaves Philadelphia carrying approximately 14,000 tons of ash. Operated by Amalgamated Shipping Co. of Bahamas and registered in Liberia.

March 1987: Paolino and Sons sues Amalgamated Shipping Corp., the operator of the Khian Sea.

March 22, 1987: Mobro garbage barge leaves New York for North Carolina with 3,000 tons of trash, North Carolina.

April - July, 1987: Mobro wanders the Caribbean looking for a trash dump; becomes front page international news and symbol of the growing US trash crisis.

July 1987: Mobro returns to New York Harbor with garbage on board; trash eventually burned in Long Island incinerator.

Sept. 1986 - Aug. 1987: Khian Sea turned away from Bahamas, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guinea-Bissau and Netherlands Antilles.

Jan. 1997: Philadelphia signs contract with Bulkhandling to send 250,000 tons of ash to Panama for use as land reclamation material.

Sept. 8, 1987: Greenpeace protests plans to ship ash to Panama.

Sept. 11, 1987: Panamanian officials refuse permission to receive Philadelphia ash.

Dec. 31, 1987: Khian Sea arrives in Gonaives, Haiti.

Jan. 20 - 31, 1988: Khian Sea unloads some 4,000 tons of ash on the beach adjacent to the Sedren dock in Gonaives. Papers describe the ash as fertilizer are signed by two brother of military strongman Jean-Claude Paul. This is one of the first known instances of US waste dumping in a developing country outside Mexico.

Feb. 2, 1988: Haitian Minister of Commerce orders Khian Sea to reload ash and then leave. Khian Sea leaves -- without reloading ash -- under military escort.

Feb. 4, 1988: The "Bark," operated by Bulkhandling, Inc., leaves Philadelphia with some 14,000 tons of ash for the Carribbean, reportedly for Haiti.

Feb. 17 - 21, 1988: A Greenpeace team documents existence of ash pile, takes samples and meets with the Prime Minister and other authorities in Gonaives and Port au Prince.

Feb. 19, 1988: Haitian Prime Minister announces immediate and total ban on waste imports into Haiti.

Feb. 26, 1988: Khian Sea heads back to Philadelphia.

Feb. 29, 1988: With Khian Sea anchored in Delaware River, Greenpeace delivers bottles of ash taken from Gonaives to deputy mayor; Washington Office on Haiti, Greenpeace and local residents protest dumping at Pier 2, Khian Sea's destination.

3 A.M., Mar. 1, 1988: Pier 2 destroyed by fire. Pier is owned by Paolino and Sons. Khian Sea drops anchor in Delaware River.

Paolino and Sons then denies permission to dock Khian Sea until Amalgamated takes reponsibility for Haiti dumping incident.

May 13, 1988: Guinea officials request removal of ash from the "Bark" from its shores.

May 22, 1988: Defying US Coast Guard orders, Khian Sea leaves Delaware River anchorage for "engine trials."

July 15, 1988: The "Banya" returns to the U.S. with ash from Guinea unloaded by the "Bark."

August 2, 1988: Khian Sea, now re-named Felicia, reported in Yugoslavia for repairs.

Sept. 12, 1988: Felicia escorted from Yugoslavia by the Navy.

Sept. 28: Felicia passes through Suez Canal, destination listed as the Philippines.

November 1988: Felicia arrives in Singapore, without ash. The captain later testifies that ash was dumped at sea in the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

1989: The United Nations Environment Programme convenes the first intergovernmental meeting on the negotiation of a Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, later called the Basel Convention.

1990: At least half of the ash in Gonaives is moved from the Sedren wharf to a concrete depot 4 kilometers west of the wharf. Area is not covered.

Dec. 19, 1990: Jean Bertrand Aristide elected President of Haiti.

Dec. 1990: Friends of Nature (Port-au-Prince), Haiti Communications Project (Boston) and Gonaives residents mail some 250 small envelopes of ash to Philadelphia Mayor Goode and USA Administrator William Reilly (no relation to William P. Reilly of Coastal Carriers).

Feb. 7, 1991: President Aristide takes office.

Sept. 30, 1991: Aristide ousted, exiled to Venezuela and then to the United States.

June 1993: William P. Reilly and John Patrick Dowd, officers of Coastal Carriers Inc., which operated the Khian Sea, convicted for perjury. Nobody was ever convicted for the dumping of ash in Haiti nor dumping at sea.

Oct. 1993: Reilly and Dowd sentenced to jail time. U.S. federal judge ignores NGOs and City of Philadelphia requests to order cleanup of the ash pile as part of the sentencing.

March 1994: The Basel Convention countries unanimously agree to ban hazardous waste shipments from industrialized countries to developing countries. The United States, not a Party to the Convention, opposes the Basel Ban.

Oct. 1994: Aristide Government is restored to power. backed by U.S. led military forces.

Dec. 1994: Greenpeace, Haiti Communications Project, COHPEDA and Peace and Justice revisit ash piles and take ash samples. The groups request the U.S. military to assist by carrying the ash back to the U.S. Haitian Minister for Environment and Mayors of Port au Prince and Gonaives call for ash to be returned to Philadelphia.

Jan. 1995: Analysis of ash samples by Exeter Lab (U.K.) confirms hazardous levels of lead and cadmium in some portions of the ash and document migration of some heavy metals into surrounding soil.

Jan. 1995: A UNDP/U.S. AID team visits the site and recommends building a permanent landfill.

Feb. 1995: Greenpeace, COHPEDA, FREN, FAN, Justice and Peace, and HCP form the Coalition for the Return of the Toxic Waste of Gonaives.

August 1996: Eastern Services, Inc. applies for a license to haul New York City's commercial trash.

Autumn 1996: New York City's Trade Waste Commission discovers that Eastern's officer, Louis Paolino was a principal of Paolino and Sons.

March 1997: The Trade Waste Commission conditions license on Eastern's financial contribution toward retrieval of Gonaives ash. The agreement expires in May 1998.

June 1997: Haitian Minister of Environment, Yves Wainright, endorses Commission's plan.

Autumn 1997: City of Philadelphia again refuses to participate in the return to sender, saying any actions it takes must be "budget neutral."

January 1998: 10th anniversary of the dumping of the ash; Philadelphia and U.S. Department of State again requested to assist in returning the ash to Philadelphia, which remains in Gonaives. U.S. and Haitian environmentalists and Haiti solidarity groups launch Project Return to Sender to secure the remaining funds needed to clean up the waste before the May 1998 expiration of Paolino's contribution to the project.

Sources: Greenpeace International Toxic Trade Update, various personal telephone and written communications with Philadelphia and New York City officials, various articles in Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and Haitian press, Greenpeace site visits to Gonaives in 1988 and 1994, "Heavy Metal Content of MSW Incinerator Ash from the City of Philadelphia, Dumped in Gonaives, Haiti, Angela Stephenson, Exeter Lab, Jan. 31, 1995, "site Visit Report: toxic waste dumping near Gonaives, UNDP/Haiti 25 Jan. 1995.